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Thursday, March 20, 2008

AdWords Advice: Ban Parked Domains in Search Advertising Campaigns

When Google announced the upgraded site exclusion tool for the *content* network, they quietly introduced a feature that impacts the *search* network. It is now possible to block parked domain traffic that's being distributed to the search network. From this AdWords help page:
Where do site and category exclusions apply?

Most site and category exclusions apply only to the Google content network. However, if you exclude Parked domains (under the Page Types tab), you'll exclude all parked domain sites, including the ones on the search network.
After sifting through numerous AdWords accounts, I strongly advise banning parked domains from pure search advertising campaigns. Let me back up a step. First, keep search advertising completely separate from contextual advertising. The obvious next step would be to keep domain advertising separate from both search and contextual advertising. Unfortunately, that's not an option.

Now, before I share some data explaining why I strongly advise blocking domain traffic in search campaigns, I still believe that parked domain traffic has the potential to be superior to search advertising. That potential, however, is not being realized in the AdWords system. Case in point (click on image for larger view):

Google AdWords parked domain stats

Note the confusing alert from Google AdWords. Because this particular campaign is opted into the search network but NOT the content network, most features of the site exclusion tool don't apply. Note, too, the checkbox attempting to opt this campaign into the content network. NEVER check that for a pure search advertising campaign.

Now, for the important data: 916 clicks but ZERO conversions. That's astonishing for a search advertising campaign. The reason the performance is so poor is that those 916 clicks did not come from search advertising. Nobody typed keywords into a search box. Nobody even typed generic keywords as a domain name. I'll share some of those domains in a later post. From comments I've seen on domaining blogs, I anticipate that overzealous domainers will claim ineptitude on the part of the advertiser. Believe me, that's not the case. The poor quality of the domain names that drove the traffic is staggering. No wonder Google chooses opacity over transparency.

Now, since Google has deliberately failed at their mission to organize the world's information, I'm going to organize some of that information for them. Subscribe to Apogee Weblog and read my next post. You will not believe the garbage that's on the AdWords search network...

Update: I've posted details about this parked domain traffic. It's a miserable failure >>.

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Blogger JezC said...

Excellent post Rich - I've actually got a few content targeted campaigns with a half-way decent ROI. For example, the client target is $50, and the achieved ROI is £80. However, the rest of the content targeted campaigns mostly fail to achieve even that much. This failure to meet the target, means that other sources have to work that much harder, requiring more management costs (and further damaging overall profit).

If I could positively select high quality domainers, I would. The cost of checking, site by site and domain by domain, after a click has been received, is far too high for an advertiser to manage ROI improvement. It is, annoyingly, only cost effective to just turn off the whole thing - as you have done. If Google were more selective with publishers, then this network might be useful. It is ironic that Google's goal of indexing the worlds data means that they are the stimulus for so much spam!

Sun Mar 23, 05:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger JezC said...

Grrh - I meant to positively confirm that the £80 achieved was on domain parks - the entire campaign achieves the target - but the presence of garbage filled and poorly managed domains means that I have to achieve much better performance from other sites. If I could direct more funds at those performing sites, the overall performance would be better. Domain parks, as managed by Google, drag down overall performance.

Sun Mar 23, 06:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Richard said...

Thanks, Jeremy. Yes, it's kind of like the content network but without site exclusion. Just as the quality of content sites varies, so does the quality of the parked domains. Some domain names are equivalent to a search or are at least contextually relevant. Since the control is not granular for the advertisers, however, and there is so much garbage, the only option is to opt out.

Hmm, I wonder if this creates an opportunity for a company like Sendori?

Tue Mar 25, 12:42:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I had not realised that exclusion worked for parked domains in the search network. My gut feeling is that parked domains and typo squatters are a con and to be avoided however not all my results prove this. I actually have reasonable conversions from the parked domains on the search network:

impressions: 595
clicks: 212
ctr: 35.63%
cost: £31.51
avg cpc: £0.15
avg cpm: £52.96
conversions: 20
conv rate: 9.43%
cost per conv: £1.58

Given the smallest sale is $100 (largest is $1000s) I only need 1 sale from those 20 conversions and that is well below my average. However, that data is for 6 months so it is hardly worth bothering about.

The cost per conversion is actually not much worse than the content network for me but the numbers for the same 6 month period are a lot bigger:

clicks: 4,220
impressions: 2,034,587
ctr: 0.21%
av cpc: £0.06
total cost: £257.55
av position: 3.6
conv rate: 4.38%
cpc: £1.39
conversions: 185

However, that is with well over 1000 sites in the exclusion list for the content network and that took a lot of work. targetting individual sites never worked out for us.

Wed Jul 09, 12:03:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fri Oct 30, 03:26:00 AM EDT  

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